As my family prepares for Lughnasadh by building a fire pit -- digging the area, laying a foundation of bricks and gravel -- I'm reminded in these tasks of returning to the foundation of my practice. I mentioned in my last post how I reconnect when it's been a while since I honored the sacred: at times of reconnection or high stress, I go "back to basics," which for me involves simple steps in grounding and meditation. Whether these tools are foreign or familiar to you, I'd like to walk you through my process, using tools from a variety of traditions.
Step 1: Breathe
This is also my Rule #1 for all the challenges I meet in life, and I teach my children this as well. Sit or lay in a comfortable position, and take a deep breath. Let it fill your chest and abdomen, causing both to rise. Inhale to a slow count of six, hold the breath to the count of two, and exhale to the count of eight. Repeat two more times, and then breathe normally, but remaining focused on the process. This mindful breathing has been scientifically verified to alter brain chemistry, which can ease stress, reduce cortisol, affect the heart, and improve certain medical conditions (see research by Herbert Benson for supportive studies).
Step 2: Ground
Sometimes I feel I could float away, at other times I feel disconnected from Source and Spirit. If you have that head-in-the-clouds feeling either from distraction or stress, and need to focus, moving from the deep breathing exercise to this will help. Imagine your legs and coccyx (tailbone) are the roots of a great tree. Inch them down into the soil, reaching for the bedrock below. Do this until you feel fully connected to earth energy (if you feel daring, you can even reach your tailbone root all the way to the core of the earth, drawing from the center and the molten rock between). Draw energy up from the roots and feel it filling you from your toes up to your head. While doing this, I combine grounding with ...
Step 3: Awakening the Chakras
As I draw energy up from the earth, I imagine it being guided by twin snakes. They join and cross at each chakra. So, first, it's the root chakra of security at the coccyx, often shown to be red. As the snakes enter my field of energy, they break through any blocks I might have. As it opens, I see the red glowing around me.
They move up to what the Japanese term "hara," the point two fingers' width below my navel. This is the sacral chakra, orange in color, and deals with sexuality and abundance. From there, I move the energy up, with guidance from the snakes through the rest: solar plexus (yellow, confidence), heart (green or pink, love and compassion), throat (blue, communication), third eye or pituitary (indigo, intuition, wisdom, decision-making), and then the crown (purple, spirit and bliss).
From there, I reach up my arms in a V, much like a tree's branches reach for sunlight, and I draw down white light from the stars through my crown, letting it blend with the earth energy flowing upward through me and sending star energy back to the Earth.
If I layered them all in my mind, I'd look a bit like a tree, a little like a caduceus, and a bit like a glowing rainbow torch. Silly though the images might seem, especially all together, these steps have gotten me through PTSD flashbacks, overwhelming challenges (which proved to be surmountable), and a host of minor episodes of disconnection over the last decade. They've also helped me in gaining greater clarity and deeper insight during shamanic journey sessions.
Our fire pit still needs a lot of work before completion, but so long as we take each step with serious intent and give it the attention it needs, we're sure to have a lasting structure around which we can build memories that celebrate life and the people around us.